E-Mail Selling How to Get Your E-Mails Opened and Read

There are two fundamental challenges when you use e-mails in the selling process. Challenge number one is to get your e-mail noticed and opened. The second challenge is to get the e-mail read. And it is not as simple as it sounds.

In this issue we’ll tackle the first challenge:  how you can your e-mail noticed and opened.

Strategy #1: Prospecting by E-mail

Strategy #1 is not a strategy. In my opinion (and many others) B to B, e-mail prospecting is a colossal waste of time.  I won’t flog the point to death because we all know about the evils and perils of SPAM.  Don’t kid yourself, unsolicited e-mail prospecting is an exercise in utter futility. They won’t get opened much less read. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Period. End of story.

Strategy #2: Sales Support

Strategy #2 is a very viable strategy: using e-mail to support your selling effort can pay big dividends. This strategy works extremely well with existing customers because you have an established a relationship. When prospecting however, the strategy works ONLY after you have spoken with the prospect and ONLY after he has given you his e-mail address (thereby implying that you have his permission to use the medium).

Getting Your E-Mail Opened

Regardless of whether you are contacting a prospect or a customer the next challenge is actually getting the e-mail noticed and then opened.


Sheer volume.  Everyone on the planet is competing for your client’s attention.  Internally your clients are being  bombarded with e-mails from bosses, other departments, committees, project groups and employees. Meanwhile externally, they are being inundated with every manner of e-mail from vendors, suppliers, customers, friends, newsletters, associations, SPAM artists and the like.

Think about this for a minute. E-mails are flooding in. Your client downloads a pile of messages. Each message that is downloaded gets maybe one to two seconds of attention.  Studies show people look at two things: who the mail is from and the subject of the e-mail. So you’ve got two seconds to catch the attention of a busy client. What do you do?

The Subject Line

Unless the client is urgently expecting something from you, it is doubtful that your name is compelling enough to get him or her to open it right away.  What that really means is you need a subject line that catches the attention of the would-be reader. Your subject line will stem from one of two approaches.

I. An Expected E-Mail

In some cases your client may be expecting your e-mail. Perhaps you are sending a quote or a proposal.  Of course your odds improve considerably depending on the urgency of the issue. The trick is to get it opened as soon as possible instead of having the client defer it to later.

Here’s one technique that can help you e-mail get noticed:

Subject:  John, here’s the quote you requested for the accreditation

The key to this subject line is the use of the client’s first name. It works because names act as a visual beacon for attention. Our names draw our eyes because it implies a personal message of some sort. In effect, it is irresistible.

The subject line continues with an explanation of what the e-mail is about. It quickly reminds the client about the nature of your e-mail (remember you have maybe two seconds –max- to catch their eye).  Naturally, there is no guarantee the client will open it up but it will get NOTICED.  In an addition, it increases your odds because at least the client knows what is inside.  This is much better than a vague or generic subject line.

Of course, you can add those little red exclamation marks (!) which may help draw the eye to the message. But use this only if there is something urgent within the e-mail. Be aware that  exclamation points are often overused and maybe be overlooked. Another way to create urgency however it to develop a subject line that has a call to action:

Subject:  Kathy, Please open. Time sensitive quote.

You use this ONLY if you have a special offer or quote or whatever that has a time limit to it. And by time sensitive I mean that the offer or sale item is only for a few days, not for a few weeks.

II. Unexpected E-mail

Your approach to the subject line however, will be somewhat different if you are sending an e-mail that is designed to nurture or groom a prospect or to add value to an existing client.  In other words, the client isn’t necessarily expecting your e-mail

In this scenario your subject line has to have something enticing and intriguing. Your objective is to create curiosity.   Here are some examples  of what I mean:

Subject:Sarah, Special Report: 10 Ways to Get Your Calls Returned

Subject:Eric, 6 Possible Course Selections for Accreditation

Subject: Dr.Anselmo,  7 Ways to Increase Patient Traffic

Subject: Kirsten, 2 Quick Items

Subject: Steve, 3 Things to Consider

You can easily spot the common threads.  First, the name is used for the same reason as mentioned above and second, each message has a numeric reference.

There is nothing particularly mysterious about this approach. It plays on the average person’s sense of curiosity and wonder.  By using a numeric within the subject line you get your clients intrigued. They wonder what the “10 ways” are or what are the “6 possible courses” or what are the “3 things” they must consider.  Most recipients  like to take a quick peek and et voila, the message is opened.

The challenge for you is to create something that you can itemize. In the last two examples you see the “2 Quick Items” and the “3 Things to Consider.”   When the reader sees smaller numbers part of him or her is tempted to open it right away and deal with it. It plays on the concept of “let’s quickly deal with this and move on.”


These tips are not huge, earth shattering epiphanies that will sky rocket your sales results.  They are small things. But in sales, small things can give you an edge.  These subject line examples are a bit unusual from most and because they are, you improve your chances of the client opening them.  In the next issue, we’ll look at how you can get your e-mail messages read after they opened.

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